Superman vs. The Elite is an animated superhero film based on "What's So Funny About Truth, Justice & the American Way?," the story published in the comic book Action Comics #775 (March 2001). The movie was adapted and written by Joe Kelly, who wrote the comic it was based on, and is directed by Michael Chang. It was released on June 12, 2012. The film also featured the return of George Newbern as Superman, and David Kaufman as Jimmy Olsen, reprising their roles from the DC animated universe. It is the 14th film in the DC Universe Animated Original Movies line.
The movie opens up with Manchester Black watching multiple news stories about villains and how they're given second chances. As, all of the news stories close down to one solution, the world wants solutions to all of the evil in the world; by killing it. When Manchester sees that this is what the world wants, he turns off the TV and begins his plot to keep the world safe....by any means necessary.
Back at Metropolis, Lois and Clark witness the death of multiple people in the streets at the hands of the Atomic Skull who was killing people to draw out Superman. As the battle erupts throughout most of the city, Superman ends up defeating Atomic Skull by throwing him into a lake. After this Superman gives a speech at the United Nations about the greater good that is found within everyone. During this the leaders of Bialyia and Pokolistan begin to fight due to their peace treaty being broken, Superman leaves the United Nations to stop their armed forces from destroying each other.
As Superman arrives in Bialya, the Pokolistani forces release a bio weapon on the Bialyan military which destroys most of their ground forces. As Superman gets the soldiers to safety from the bio weapon, The Elite arrive just in time to help the Man of Steel destroy the bio weapon.
Superman returns to Metropolis to report the news and also gain more information on the Elite. Superman and Lois fly to England to find out if they, and the world, can trust the Elite. It is revealed through Manchester Black that he gained his powers near puberty and used it for the first time to save his sister Vera from being hit by a train.
Through telepathy, Black gets a painful headache of multiple people screaming. The Elite and Superman arrive on the scene to save the civilians on a subway train which was trapped underwater due to a terrorist attack. After Superman and Black save the passengers, Black interrogates the terrorists that bombed the train nearly killing them. Superman begins to be concerned about the motives of his new-found friends.
Back in Metropolis, Clark and Lois talk about the information they had found on the Elite and also the back-story of Manchester Black. Lois tells Clark that there is no death certificate or birth record of Manchester's sister Vera. This makes Clark further question the origin of the Elite and what they are really trying to accomplish. When Manchester broadcasts a message for all the world to hear, he ends up telling them that they will take care of all the bad guys in the world by killing them.
After the broadcast, Superman returns to the Fortress of Solitude to search for reliable information on the Elite. Having failed in finding information, Superman travels to Bialya. While there Superman is hit by an EMP which weakens him. Closing Pokolistani forces are about to attack him when the Elite attacks. Powerless to stop the chaos that the Elite inflict on the Pokolistani military, Superman ends up passing out. He eventually awakens at the Elite's base of operations and is teleported back to Earth after he fails to convince the Elite that they don't have to kill to be heroes.
In Metropolis, Atomic Skull breaks out of prison and looks for revenge on Superman. The Elite arrives but have little success against the overpowered Atomic Skull. When Superman arrives, he coordinates an attack with the Elite to get all the extra power away from Atomic Skull. After Atomic Skull's power is drained by Coldcast, he is killed by Manchester Black under the vote of a boy whose father was one of Atomic Skull's victims.
After protecting Pokolistan from Bialya's jets, Superman is visited by the Elite who tell him that they have killed both the Pokolistan and Bialya leaders and that peace can reign supreme in that area once again. Angered by Manchester's uncontrollable urge to kill the villains, Superman punches him in the face and the Elite take it as a statement of war against the world's "favorite heroes." They tell Superman that they will kill him for this outrage.
The next day, Superman stands in the middle of Metropolis telling the Elite that he is ready to fight. Asking them to do it somewhere safe, they teleport to the Moon where they begin their fight. Almost dying, Superman begins to understand how to protect the world. Injecting Menagerie with a poison that causes her sym-beasts to abandon her and forcing her into a state of death. The Hat attempts to exploit Superman's known weakness to magic but is suffocated by a whirlwind displacing oxygen and sucked into the funnel.
Against Coldcast's wishes, Manchester teleports them to Metropolis to use the innocent civilians as cover. While Black gives the order to combine powers to destroy Metropolis when Superman appears, a flash blur of red and blue appears and Coldcast is gone. Superman appears informing Black that the blow knocked Coldcast into orbit. Manchester attacks Superman with everything he has but is effortlessly avoided. Through heat vision, Superman lobotomizes Manchester, stripping him of his powers. Believing his death to be seconds away, Manchester tells Superman that the world knows he is no better than they are and will never again trust him. Superman reveals that he did not kill any of the Elite, but he had his Super-Robots protected all of the citizens and created the false illusion that he had killed them. They were really transported to the Fortress of Solitude to be stripped of their powers, then sent to a prison. In the end, the people of Earth see that Superman's way is best for all of mankind. After that, he flies off with Lois and they kiss.
- Dawn Hershey – Casting and Voice Director
The film was first announced at Comic Con 2011, during the screening of Batman: Year One, as one of the films from the DC Universe Animated Original Movies line for 2012, by producer Bruce Timm. Joe Kelly, writer of Action Comics #775, "What's So Funny About Truth, Justice & the American Way?," adapted his own work into the film. He was quoted as saying that "the story tackles themes that go way beyond a typical superhero story...politics, the price of power and America's place as a force in the world are all viewed through the lens of the DC Universe. Even if fans aren't paying close attention to these issues, they're all over the media. You can't escape them. So with the state of affairs being what it is, I can't think of a better time to see Superman confront these themes...I'm a big fan of taking real world issues and working them out through our "superhero" stories—but this one goes beyond strict allegory. Like the original comic story, the film is thought provoking without being preachy and really delivers a punch." He also said that, in terms of expanding the comic book issue into an animated film, and the differences between the two; that he "had Alan Burnett. Alan helped me cut to the heart of the story and personalize it for an audience who might not have known the original comic...the original story was about anti-heroes and comic fans and trends in the industry that were disturbing to me when it was written. For the story to work as a film, we needed to get beyond that while keeping the core of the story: that Superman serves a purpose and his moral code is relevant even in the modern world. This is where the expansion into "world politics" really helped."
Superman vs. The Elite was released on DVD and Blu-ray with a combo pack. Features include: a sneak peek at Part 1 of the animated film version of The Dark Knight Returns, two featurettes "The Elite Unbound: No Rules, No Mercy" and "Superman and the Moral Debate", audio commentary, two episodes of Superman: The Animated Series, and Action Comics #775 as a digital comic. The combo pack was released on June 12, 2012.
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